Immaculate third round sees Rahm shoot clear
Ruthless leader hard to oppose
08:00 - February 19, 2023
A superb birdie at the 18th saw Jon Rahm record a bogey-free six-under par 65 on moving day at the Genesis Invitational and with a three-stroke lead heading into round four, he's very much the man to beat. Here's the latest standings with prices to back at 7:50.
Jon Rahm -15 1.374/11
Max Homa -12 6.25/1
Keith Mitchell -11 19.5
Patrick Cantlay -10 23.022/1
Gary Woodland -9 100.099/1
-8 and 180.0179/1 bar
Players with a three-stroke 54-hole lead don't have a terrific record at Riviera.
Ray Floyd blew a three-stroke lead here at the 1998 US Senior Open and last year's winner, Joaquin Niemann, is the only one of four to convert a three shot advantage in this event this century. Davis Love (2001), Charles Howell (2003), and Bill Haas (2013), all failed and in 2019, Justin Thomas shot 75 on Sunday to finish second having led by four after three rounds.
On the PGA Tour since 1996, 133 players have taken a three-stroke lead into the final round of a 72-hole PGA Tour event (including co-sanctioned tournaments) and only 70 (53%) of them went on to convert.
Those two stats suggest the leader is short enough at odds of less than 2/5, especially when we consider that his closest challenger, Max Homa, has won here before and that he's in search of his seventh PGA Tour title but Rahm's record when leading is extremely impressive...
If we disregard the Memorial Tournament two years ago when he had to withdraw when he tested positive for Covid when leading by six after three rounds, Rahm has successfully converted his last five 54-hole leads.
He finished 12th at the Players Championship on the first occasion he led on the PGA Tour through 54 holes (led by one), back in 2019, and he finished runner-up at the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2020, having led by a stroke after round three but on every other occasion that he's led with a round to go he's gone on to win.
Playing in the penultimate three-ball, Patrick Cantlay may be the best alternative to the leader at the prices on offer this morning but Justin Ray's stat below points to the front two and Rahm looks unopposable to me so I'm happy to leave the event alone and enjoy the spectacle.
Rahm has been in sparkling form since finishing second to Shane Lowry at the BMW PGA Championship in September and he's in search of his fifth win in eights starts!
11:00 - February 18, 2023
We've reached the halfway stage of the Genesis Invitational and the 2021 winner, Max Homa, holds a narrow advantage. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:45.
Max Homa -10 4.57/2
Jon Rahm -9 3.711/4
Keith Mitchell -9 15.014/1
Lee Hodges -9 32.031/1
Collin Morikawa -8 8.27/1
Patrick Cantlay -7 12.5
Rory McIlroy -6 10.519/2
Matt Kuchar -6 85.084/1
Will Zalatoris -5 60.059/1
Danny Willett -5 170.0169/1
Gary Woodland -5 200.0199/1
Scottie Scheffler -4 40.039/1
-4 and 100.099/1 bar
Joaquin Niemann won the Genesis wire-to-wire 12 months ago and fellow LIV rebel, Dustin Johnson, converted a 36-hole lead back in 2017 but they're the only two hallway leaders to convert since another LIV player, Phil Mickelson, won the first of his two titles 15 years ago having led by four after two rounds.
Having led after round one for the first time on the PGA Tour on Thursday, Homa is now holding his first clear halfway advantage. He was tied for the lead at the Fortinet Championship in September last year before going on to make a successful defence but he shot a level par 72 on Saturday to lose the lead and he needed an awful lot of help from Danny Willett to seal the deal.
Homa is playing superbly, ranking highly for all the key stats, and he must be full of confidence after securing his sixth PGA Tour title at the Farmers Insurance Open just three weeks ago. He's a perfectly fair price at around the 3/1 mark but it's not easy to make all the running and that just puts me off.
The world number three, Jon Rahm, heads the market after a sensational finish to round two.
Rahm began the day with an eagle three at the very straightforward opening hole but he lost his way a bit after that, drifting out to 8.27/1 before he made birdies at 13, 14 and 16 and an eagle thee at 17.
Backed into 2.829/5, the Spaniard looked likely to lead going into the weekend before he missed a par putt at the last from six feet but he's the man to beat while the putter's still working so well.
Collin Morikawa is the only other player trading at a single-figure price but I'm happy to swerve him. He holed some crazy long putts yesterday, but he missed three from six feet and in and that's a concern. He's highly unlikely to keep holing bombs.
Over at the Thailand Classic, Dale Whitnell has met the first lay back target to put the Find Me a 100 Winner column in profit but things could and should be better.
I mentioned Shane Lowry here at the Genesis and I've got him onside now at 180.0179/1 but I looked closely at Keith Mitchell, who sits alongside Rahm and Lee Hodges in a tie for second place.
As highlighted in the preview, as many as three of the last seven Genesis winners have also won the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow and at odds ranging between 120.0119/1 and 600.0599/1 so the fact that Mitchell had led there by two strokes with a round to go on the last occasion the PGA Tour visited the track in 2021 hadn't escaped my attention.
Mitchell failed to convert, with course specialist, Rory McIlroy, going on to win there for the third time and he's in-the-mix here too.
Rory hasn't driven the ball as well as he usually does this week and he's struggled a bit with the putter too. Playing with Tiger Woods over the first two days was probably a bit distracting also but his iron play has been exceptional and he's a real danger to the frontrunners.
Trailing by four, Rory can't he described as a great price, but I thought he was worth chancing at 11.010/1.
In addition to backing the Irish duo of Rory and Lowry, I've also had a tiny bet on the man that really should have won the Fortinet back in September - Danny Willett - who trails by five.
US Masters winners have a phenomenal record in this event, and I was happy to throw a few pounds in his direction at 200.0199/1
Danes dominating in Thailand
Somewhat predictably, the 36-hole leader of the Thailand Classic, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, fell away tamely on a day of low scoring today and with a round to go, we've got two Danes dominating the market. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices at 10:50.
Thorbjorn Olesen -18 2.6213/8
Nicolai Hojgaard -16 4.57/2
Yannik Paul -16 7.413/2
Joost Luiten -15 13.5
Jeughun Wang -14 23.022/1
Dale Whitnell -14 24.023/1
Kazuki Higa -14 28.027/1
-13 and 60.059/1 bar
Despite shooting an eight-under-par 64, Nicolai Hojgaard felt he left a couple of shots out there in round three and he may end up rueing his big mistake at the par three eighth that led to a bogey four and his failure to birdie the drivable par four 12th after his drive finished up just short of the putting surface.
Alongside Germany's Yannik Paul, Hojgaard trails fellow Dane, Thorbjorn Olesen, by two, and the market correctly favours the more experienced star. Olesen matched Hojgaard's 64 today but his card was bogey free.
Olesen is the understandably warm favourite but looking at the five editions of the now defunct Thailand Golf Championship staged here between 2011 and 2015, it's been a mixed bag for 54 hole leaders.
The first three men to take a lead into round four all won but they led by at least four strokes and the last two winners both trailed by two with a round to go.
Olesen has converted his last four 54-hole leads on the DP World Tour (led by at least three strokes) but that too could be slightly misleading.
His penultimate success was as long ago as 2016 and he was a slightly fortunate winner on the last occasion he led through 54 holes, at the British Masters last May.
Having not been in-contention for a very long time, Olesen looked to have blown his chance to win for the first time in six years when he trailed by two with two to play. He was matched at 44.043/1 as he stood on the penultimate tee but he eagled the 17th from 30 feet to tie the lead before birdying the last from 36 feet to win!
Having backed Hojgaard yesterday and having two pre-event picks trailing by four, Jeughun Wang and Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Dale Whitnell, I'm going to swerve the leader and hope for the best tomorrow.
There are plenty of opportunities to pick up shots here but there are also holes that can trip you up so I'm in no rush to take the 6/4, although history suggests he's a fair price...
In addition to Olesen's fine record when leading, we've seen 188 men lead a 72-hole DP World Tour event by two strokes since 1996 and as many as 87 went on to win. That's an impressive 46% and the last five have all been successful.
Unfortunately, after being matched at 6.05/1 and 9.08/1 respectively today, Wang and Whitnell were disappointing on the back-nine but they're still in with a shout and I'm also happy to throw a few pounds in the direction of the 36-hole leader, Cabrera-Bello.
The Spaniard was predictably poor with the lead today but three of his four wins have come from off the pace and he won his first title - the Austrian Open in 2009 - from eight shots adrift!
He may relax now seemingly out of it and looks worth chancing at a triple-figure price despite being five back.
12:05 - February 17, 2023
Play was suspended at Riviera with nine players yet to finish their opening rounds at the Genesis Invitational yesterday but none are threatening the lead set by pre-event 160.0159/1 chance, Keith Mitchel, and the 2021 winner, Max Homa, who's bidding to win for the fifth time in eight starts in his home state, and for the third time in-a-row following victories at the Fortinet Championship and the Farmers Insurance Open.
Having sided with Homa at the Farmers, I'm a bit frustrated that I didn't back him again here, especially given both his outstanding record in California and the fact that he's already won two titles twice - the aforementioned Fortinet and the Wells Fargo Championship but he makes little appeal now at 5/1.
Last year's winner, Joaquin Niemann, who now plays on the LIV Tour, won wire-to-wire but as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, plenty of winners have started slowly at Riviera and I'm more than happy to bide my time.
With Jon Rahm a stroke adrift of the leaders and alone in third, Dave Tindall's fancy, Collin Morikawa, two back in a tie for fourth, and Rory McIlroy one of a host of quality players tied seventh and just three off the lead, it's a wide-open event.
Although Rahm, Homa and McIlroy dominate the market, the star of the show on day one was most definitely Tiger Woods.
Playing for the first time since July, the GOAT birdied the last three holes in-a-row to sign for a two-under-par 69 that sees him sit tied for 27th.
Over on the DP World Tour, pre-event 200.0199/1 chance, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, leads by two strokes at the halfway stage of the Thailand Classic and he now heads the open market. Here's the latest standings with Betfair Sportsbook prices at 11:50.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello -13 5/1
Fabrizio Zanotti -11 13/2
Thorbjorn Olesen -10 15/2
Yannik Paul -10 12/1
Kazuki Higa -10 12/1
Thriston Lawrence -10 14/1
Alexander Knappe -10 28/1
Christoffer Bring -10 50/1
Kiradech Aphibarnrat -9 12/1
Sami Valimaki -9 16/1
Jeughun Wang -9 18/1
Matthieu Pavon -9 20/1
Dale Whitnell -9 25/1
Clement Sordet -9 28/1
Nicolai Hojgaard -8 14/1
Antoine Rozner -8 14/1
Joost Luiten -8 33/1
Matthew Southgate -8 40/1
Martin Simonsen -8 100/1
-7 and 66/1 bar
As highlighted in the In-Play tactics section of the preview, up with the pace was the place to be at the now defunct Thailand Golf Championship staged at Amata Springs and four of the five winners were in front at halfway. The odd man out, Lee Westwood, sat second.
With the forecast suggesting very little wind over the weekend, the frontrunners should be favoured, and my plan was always to wait until now and to assess the situation, with a view to backing the leader.
Although matched at as high as 210.0209/1, with the benefit of hindsight, a case could certainly have been made for Cabrera-Bello before the off.
He missed the cut in Singapore last week, but the Ryder Cupper was 13th in the Ras Al Khaimah Championship in his penultimate start, on a course, like this one, laid to paspalum, and he has a nice bank of form at Paris National - the course Matt Cooper felt correlated well with this venue in his each-way piece.
Given the record of halfway leaders at Amata Springs and the benign weekend forecast, odds of around 6/1 about the Spaniard on the exchange appear reasonable but he's far from a straightforward conveyance in-contention and he's led or co-led at halfway ten times previously on the DP World Tour without converting.
Add into the equation that there are three players tied for third and three off the lead that won on Tour last year - Thriston Lawrence, Yannik Paul and Thorbjorn Oleson - and that there a host of quality players within five of the lead, including the pre-event favourite, Nicolai Hojgaard, and I'm happy to overlook the leader.
Pre-event pick, Jeunghun Wang, and Find Me a 100 Winner selection, Dale Whitnell, both sit tied for ninth and four back, so I go into the weekend with chances but I'm happy to add two more to the mix - Thriston Lawrence and Nicolai Hojgaard.
Lawrence impressed when winning the Joburg Open and the European Masters last season and he's looking for his second win this season following his gutsy success in the South African Open in December.
Hojgaard is just too dangerous to ignore from five back and I was happy to take 20.019/1. He's reaching the par fives in two with ease and is more than capable of going super-low over the weekend.
Thailand Classic Pre-Event Selections:
Adrian Otaegui @ 38.037/1
Jeunghun Wang @ 70.069/1
Thriston Lawrence @ 16.015/1
Nicolai Hojgaard @ 20.019/1
Rafa Cabrera-Bello @ 140.0139/1
Genesis Invitational Pre-Event Selections:
Scottie Scheffler @ 13.012/1
Hideki Matsuyama @ 70.069/1
In-Play Picks:Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Rory McIlroy @ 11.010/1
Shane lowry @ 180.0179/1
Danny Willett @ 200.0199/1
Back 2u Dale Whitnell @ 120.0119/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1.5u Brian Harman @ 200.0199/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4
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